Depressed Moms Linked To Delinquent Teenagers, Study Finds

Mothers who suffer from depression are more likely to raise delinquent teenagers according to a recent study conducted by scientists from the University of Ottawa.

According to the study, recently reported by US News, teenagers are more likely to engage in undesirable behaviors like smoking, drinking and drug use if they grew up in a house with a depressed mother, compared to those who grew up with mothers free from mental health issues. They are also more likely to act out and perform violent behaviors while growing up under such circumstances.

Before results came in, the researchers had already hypothesized that teenagers who live with depressed mothers were more likely to engage in delinquent behavior, due to the lack of supervision and care that may arise from families with history of depression. However, they found out that it was actually children who were more susceptible to commit delinquent acts in the future when exposed to depressed mothers. Ian Colman, co-author of the study, says children 6 to 10 years old who are raised by depressed mothers are more likely to commit risky behaviors during adolescence.

The researchers conducted a longitudinal research program where they studied around 2,900 pairs of mothers and children in Canada. The research began in 1994, when the children were aged 2 to 5. The study continued until the children were around 16 years old. Four percent of the mothers surveyed suffered from depression while raising their then-young children.

The scientists asked the teens about their day-to-day activities, including their criminal records, and any other delinquent behaviors they may have engaged in over the years.

Seanna Crosbie, social worker for the Austin Child Guidance Center in Texas, emphasized on the importance of the formative years in building up a teenager’s self-esteem and overall personality.

“It is during this stage that children gain approval from parents and teachers by exhibiting competencies and activities that are valued by society. If children do not receive positive feedback and encouragement from their environment, they may develop a sense of low self-esteem and inferiority,” said Crosbie.

Mothers who are depressed are more likely to not be able to provide proper supervision for their children. Although they do not intend to withdraw love and support from their children, their conditions might lead them to unknowingly hold back proper care for their child.

Colman concluded that a mix of genetics and environment has effects on the final results of the study. He also clarified that although a strong link between depressed moms and teenage delinquents was found, there are no causative relations between the two variables.

[Image from Ed Yourdon/Flickr]